Morton Berger and cruel and unusual punishment
- Mr. Montini:
If you truly believe that posession of a photograph depicting child
pornography is and bad as actually abusing a child and deserves the
same punishment, let's take it to its logical conclusion. As a journalist
you've doubtless had possession of photographs of people who have been
murdered. Does that mean you belong on death row?
>I totally agree. What garbage! Like I heard of someDear Eric,
>British singer who did nothing but look at a page on
>which was "kiddie porn" and that is a crime in the UK.
> They didn't even say that he paid any "membership"
>cost to look. Note that the page itself is not
>illegal; looking at it is illegal!
>I absolutely oppose any criminalization of viewing
>anything on the internet. If you want to ban stuff on
>there, ban the site and make it inaccessible. Let's
>debate the pros and cons of banning sites, but don't
>go arrest people who look at sites that are there in
>complete legality. One might have viewed a site
>accidentally, or out of curiousity. In general
>looking at a picture of something is quite different
>indeed from engaging in any act with the person
>Besides, "kiddie porn" includes anything from naked
>baby pictures to graphic photos of rape of children.
>I personally believe that the two are quite different,
>yet I have seen all of them being called "kiddie porn"
>just because there is (a) nudity or partial nudity,
>and (b) the subjects are under 18. Following this
>guy's logic, I suppose having naked baby pictures of
>one's own children amounts to sexual abuse of one's
>Even if it is argued that purchasing an article of
>child pornography encourages trafficking in child
>pornography by providing a market, I am not yet
>convinced that there is an adequate and reasonable
>definition of child pornography.
>In addition, possession of a picture does not mean
>that the picture was purchased. It might have been
>found, obtained as a gift, or downloaded for free from
Mr. Berger was sentenced to 200 years in prison for having
a collection of photographs. He never assaulted or abused
any child or solicited anyone to do so. Mr. Montini made
some reference to his having paid for photographs. I don't
know if there is any truth to that. Montini is a very
dishonest columnist who distorts and sensationalizes to get
his view across. I know that from long experience with his
columns in the Arizona Republic, though more from the gun
control issue than the child pornography issue. If Berger
did pay for photographs that he knew were made from the
abuse of children for commercial purposes, I would say he
has some guilt and deserves some punishment, but certainly
not a life sentence. If he merely downloaded them
for free or received them as a gift or bought them from
someone with no financial interest or connection with the
original act, I don't see that he did anything wrong.
I agree with you that in many areas the definition of child
pornography is nebulous and inconsistent. A photograph of
a naked infant may be a sexual turn-on for some sick person,
but it is more likely simply the loving momento of a proud
parent. Unfortunately, by the letter of the law in Arizona
and many other states, draconian sentences could be imposed on
a parent who innocently photographs his or her child while in
a state of undress.
I heard of a case in Ohio, where a man was sentenced to ten
years imprisonment for having private papers describing a
totally ficticious act of child abuse, which he neither
published nor intended to publish. The child was entirely
a creation of his imagination, not some real or intended
victim, and no one was to see the paper but the author.
Nonetheless the court upheld this draconian sentence for
what amounts to nothing more than thought crime. One may
argue that this person had very bad taste in private
literature and that perhaps he had a personality the might
lead him to harm a child someday, but realistically we don't
punish potential crimes or thinking about crimes. If we did,
there would be few people in this society living outside
prison walls. After all, who hasn't thought of committing
some anti-social act? :-)
I think all decent people deplore child abuse, whether sexual
or otherwise. Nonetheless in our zeal to combat it and
protect our children, we must not go to such lengths as
draconian punishments for harmless acts.
>Exactly! And indeed draconian punishments are imposedDear Eric,
>for harmless acts while harmful ones go unpunished.
>Leave aside the millions who have little or no medical
>care, who have little or no parental guidance because
>their parents work for a living, and all the other
>directly capitalist-related issues.
>There are significant perversions that are not even
>regarded as abuse. For example in connection with the
>Jon Benet Ramsay murder, it came out that there are
>perhaps thousands of parents turning toddlers and
>young girls into beauty queens, some going so far as
>to have their teeth pulled in order to make them more
Yes, that is very true. Leave aside the question
of whether the parents were responsible for her
murder; even if they had nothing to do with it, what
they did to their daughter when she was alive was
appalling, yet, regretably, perfectly legal. As
much as we, in the West, abhor such customs as (former)
Chinese foot-binding, or female circumcision of some
Muslim countries, can we honestly say that these
"beauty pagents" are any more enlightened?
>Or on a non-sexual topic, I had a workmate once whoOh, I can imagine where that could get sexual, on a
>insisted that his son would go out for football in
>highschool, because he, the father, had done so and
>was a football nut. He said it made no difference
>whether his son was inclined to go out for football;
>he would compell him to do so regardless of his son's
>own desires. And many adults try to live their
>childhood fantasies vicariously through their
>children. I can't say how much physical abuse this
>entails, but it is certainly harmful, in my opinion.
psychological level anyway. I dare say if that young
man resisted, his sexual orientation might be questioned.
Another form of child abuse that is fully sanctioned by
law is the religious indoctrination of children and
forcible participation in religious ceremonies. I
personally had to endure that. Some misguided people,
even among those calling themselves secular humanists
and human rights activists, have criticized the old
Soviet Union as "suppressing" religion, because its
law forbade religious instruction to young people, but
that was one of its better laws. I do not accept the
doctrine that children are the property and chattels of
>I hadn't heard of the case of the man sent to jail forI'm afraid Mr. Berger's fate may be particularly
>writing a story about sexual abuse. That is genuinely
>outrageous. Obviously you can't start convicting
>people for such things and claim there is any freedom
>of expression left. These weren't even for
>publication. Another example of rampant political
>And a life sentence for possession of pictures is also
>an outrage, even if he knowingly paid for them. I
>don't know the exact nature of what the pictures
>showed, but whatever it was, clearly the people who
>made the pictures are the real source of the problem,
>if indeed there is a problem.
>According to reports I've read, there is more rape of
>men in the US (because of prison rape) than there is
>of women. And here they are sending people into those
>homosexual rape dungeons because they were found in
>possession of pictures! There's something very wrong
horrible, as those who are in for "dangerous crimes
against children", as his ownership of photographs
is officially classified under Arizona law, tend to
be singled-out for such mistreatment.
It is odd that in former times, those who were
convicted of another sexual offense, known in our
statutes as "the infamous crime against nature"
(consentual homosexual conduct), would be sent to
prison for up to twenty years. The authorities
figured you could "cure" a homosexual by sending him
to prison! Go figure!
>I guess some of the far rightists might defend suchRestore society to sanity might be a better phrase.
>draconian measures against those who offend "Christian
>morality", and many of the left would jump on any
>politically correct bandwagon that happens to be
>passing by. But we really need to avoid such genuine
>perversions if we are going to keep society sane.